Stage 1: Alghero - Olbia, 206km
The 2017 Giro d’Italia kicks off Friday in Sardinia! It’s opening day, which is a celebratory time punctuated occasionally by what we hope is a mildly interesting but not dramatic day of bike racing. And on this occasion, it will be punctuated by incessant mentions of this being the 100th edition of the race, because we forgot a few birthdays and also we are totally impressed by the base ten system of counting.
Let’s break it all down.
What’s It About?
Racing from point A to point B, with beautiful shots of the Sardinian coastline, followed by a sprint and a dozen or more podium ceremonies. The Giro likes to give out all its jerseys on day 1, so we have a few KOM points stuck in there for good measure. But as far as real competition this will be a sprinters’ affair. And a celebration of one of Italy’s more unique regions.
Did You Know?
Sardinia is an island community that... oh hell, it’s just your typical Mediterranean paradise, that’s been overrun by Moors, Normans, Visigoths, Saracens, Spaniards, Gauls, Swedes, Mongols, Hipsters, Speculators and the Solid Gold Dancers. The Moors made the biggest impression, so much so that four of them make up the island’s very distinct flag:
The four Moor’s heads represent those defeated by the Aragonese and the Cross of St. George is there because... sure, why not. So you’ll see a lot of these over the next three days.
The other thing you will see are Nuraghi, basically large rocks piled into one shape or another.
The etymology of the name is something between “pile of rocks” and “WTF?”, and there are some 7,000 of them still around on Sardinia. Nobody knows what they were for, although it makes sense that they exist. I know when my kids go to the beach and they run out of things to do, they start piling up whatever the local raw materials are into distinct shapes, and Sardinia has a lot of rocks. So a better question than “who built them?” or “why are they here?” is maybe “why wouldn’t you build a nuraghe?”
Who Will Win?
Ah, the sprinters... Your big names are Greipel, Gaviria, Bennett, Ewan and Nizzolo, with outsiders like Sbaragli, Bauhaus, Puccio, Mezgec, Bonnet and probably a few others I’m missing. The finish in Olbia is a typical Giro sprint, with medium-sized quasi-urban promenades as the setting, including a few lefts and rights, so it’s tricky but not hopelessly so. There will be trains, but there will be lots of places where those trains can get derailed, making this a better chance for a wily veteran who knows what the hell he’s doing.
Which makes my pick... André Greipel.